Behold The Turtle

Behold The Turtle

When I have told people that I am an introvert, they don’t believe me. That’s because they now see my courage bearing fruit. They now see what I’ve pushed myself to do in order to fulfill my mission.

And… well, if only they knew just how much the Universe has had the last laugh in the story of my personal path from where I was to where I am now!

When I was in college I changed my major a couple of times. I had no idea what I was doing, no guidance whatsoever. Neither of my parents had attended a traditional college, and I was the oldest of four kids leading the way so to speak. I was on my own.

At first I thought I was supposed to get a business degree in order to get a job in the business world. After a while, I balked at some of the course requirements. I muddled my way through economics and did okay in Pascal computer programming class (yes, I know I’m dating myself!). But it was calculus for business majors that did me in, an area of math in which I had zero experience.

However, I had always naturally excelled in English and writing. In fact, from the time I learned to read and write as a child, I’ve respected and loved the mighty power of language and communication.  I even tested out of freshmen English to place in the sophomore-level class during my first semester in college. The professor made me well aware that he rarely gave A’s for his class just so I would know how special it was that I had aced his class. I don’t tell you this to brag but, rather, to show you just how bookish I was!

Anyway, because I was stuck on this notion that I needed to major in business but couldn’t, I got the bright idea to combine my passion for English with business and change my major to Communications instead. It seemed like a bright idea, that is, until I took a speech class, which required that we give presentations in front of the class. I was terrified. I had always been a shy kid, and here I was trying to do public speaking.  I was stammering, knees knocking and sweating furiously. So, after only one semester, I decided that a Communications degree was not for me.

You’re probably thinking, “Why didn’t she just go into the writing part of the field?” Remember, I told you I was naïve about college, and it didn’t even occur to me to go speak to a guidance counselor about all this.

By sometime late in my junior year, I finally wised up. I let go of the concept of doing a business-related major and settled on pursuing an English degree with a writing concentration. My passion, at that time, was writing poetry. Reading my work aloud to a handful of students sitting around a circle was much more bearable (though I knew I would never stand up and recite my poems at public poetry readings), even that intimate classroom setting induced fear and hesitancy. And, on top of that, the other students were critiquing my work. Unlike the essays and research papers I’d written, I saw my poems as little pieces of my heart. As they pulled apart my poems, they pulled apart my heart, too.

But I persevered and finally finished my degree, at which time I vowed to forget about writing (and public speaking) as a career. And I did… for more than 15 years.

Funny, isn’t it? Today I deliver talks and classes to large audiences with little or no nervousness at all. When I published my first book, I had to give presentations to promote it. I’ve stood in front of a variety of types and sizes of audiences with passion and enthusiasm. I co-hosted a live radio show for two years, and currently I’m an instructor at the University of Texas Professional Development Center. And here’s something that you’ll find especially ironic… I’ve even designed and taught classes about how to give presentations!

I reflect back to my college days and compare the me of then to the me of now, and it reminds me of that quote by James Bryant Conant: “Behold the turtle: He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.”

In order to fulfill my mission, which clearly involves using words not just through writing but also through presenting, I have had to stick my neck out. It’s been hard sometimes, and it’s taken more time than maybe I would have liked because of my self-doubting detours, but I’m doing it! I’m sticking my neck out and making progress with my mission.

Angela Loëb helps people rediscover and use their gifts so they bring who they really are to what they do in life. __________________________________________________________

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